The graceful spire of Sts Peter and Paul Church dominant over the vast panorama of the Neva River delta – through centuries it has been the symbol of our city. It’s inseparably connected with the history of the Romanov Dynasty, the last Russian tsars.
St. Peter and Paul church is one of the busiest local museums. People on cultural and historic “crawls” come here to see this kind of Romanov dynasty memorial park that’s evolved here:
- 50 tombs of the Russian rulers and Romanov family members are inside the church itself
- A special burial vault next door has 17 tombs of Grand Dukes – the tsar’s closest relatives
- 19 fortress commandants had the honour of being buried by the side of the Imperial family vault, at the wall of the church.
Some locals come to see the tomb of the city’s founder in particular. The church also attracts people who are curious to see or would like to honour Nicholas the Last and his family. Stories of Catherine the Great’s intrigues, Russian Hamlet – Paul I and terroristic acts of Alexander II’s time are enthralling.
The cathedral itself is a fine example of the early 18th century baroque style, so characteristic for Peter 1’s period (even nicknamed “Petrine baroque” or “Dutch baroque” as Peter habitually took after Holland).
Every visitor to St. Petersburg wants to see Sts Peter and Paul Church, where the Russian tsars are buried. But not everyone is aware that it’s part of a bigger museum – Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg Museum of History.
Peter and Paul Fortress
Peter and Paul fortress is not just a museum, it’s a whole complex encompassing two most famous crowd magnets – Sts Peter and Paul Church and the former jail (so sinister it was once even branded “Russian Bastille”). Peter-and-Paul fortress itself is an open-air museum, St. Petersburg Museum of History offers a walk along Peter the Great’s streets, stepping on the same cobble-stones as the renowned tsar, and see his plans for the city construction.
In May 1703 the first stone in the foundation of the new fortress was laid, thus breaking ground for a new city. May 27 entered the history as the birth of St. Petersburg.
Remember: it’s this fortress-town Peter called after medieval strongholds – Sankt-Peter-Burg (the city of Apostle Peter), and then the name spread onto the town growing around it. By the way, here you will find a contemporary statue of Peter the Great. Many consider, that it doesn’t resemble any traditional depictions of the most renowned Russian tsar. However, sculptor Shemyakin employed Peter 1’s death-mask to show the emperor’s real face.
St. Petersburg Museum of History is not just a set of exhibitions, it’s also a number of activities:
- Make a wish and cast a coin at the monument to Hare escaping a flood;
- Walk on the roof of the bastions and enjoy stunning panoramic views;
- Find the cannon that shoot exactly at noon every day;
- Weather permitting, take a helicopter ride and view our city from air;
Get a souvenir coin coined at the St. Petersburg’s oldest mint still operating in Peter-and-Paul Fortress.
Museum’s websitePeter and Paul Fortress
St. Petersburg Museum of History: the Jail
The other most frequently visited sight on the grounds of the fortress is the former political prison. Here you will find out:
- What brought Peter 1’s son Alexey to jail,
- Who was “Cockroach” princess and why powerful Catherine the Great was afraid of her,
- How to use a tapping alphabet,
- When and how the only prison break happened,
- What was in common between write Dostoyesky, general Ermolov, revolutioner Trotsky and lady-in-waiting Vyrubova,
- And many other mysteries, intrigues, life-stories and tragedies or the past.
St. Petersburg Museum of History Visit
At least 3 options of visit are possible: a tour of the fortress (outdoors), a tour of the fortress with a visit to Sts Peter and Paul Church and a tour of the fortress including visits to Sts Peter and Paul Church and the Jail.
Of course, if time permits, it is possible to spend half a day on the territory of the fortress, browsing permanent and temporary exhibitions and have a meal in a fine restaurant with gorgeous views of the historic city centre. Let us know you preferences in this respect.